L’Etoile (At What Cost, 2016) vividly evokes the chaotic license to kill that pervasive official corruption releases. Too...


Just because you’ve sent up a crooked cop for 10 years doesn’t mean he can’t still run rings around you, both while he’s in prison and after he’s freed on a technicality.

Before she came to partner with Detective John Penley, Detective Paula Newberry worked Internal Affairs, where her crowning achievement was tossing out the rotten apples in the Solano Sacramento Placer Narcotics Enforcement Team. Her prize catch, Charles Sherman of the Solano County Sheriff’s Department, was convicted on a raft of charges and packed off to the California State Prison–Sacramento. He’s still there when Larry Burger, another SSPNET officer who testified against him, is murdered, followed shortly by the death of Burger’s former partner, Sgt. Bobby Wing. Paula is certain Sherman has arranged the deaths, but it doesn’t matter what she thinks, since a mountain of forensic evidence—weapons, hair, DNA—marks Paula herself as the killer. Sacramento County District Attorney Linda Clarke, watching her ancient case against Sherman fall apart, is determined to pin the blame on Paula even before she finds out about all that evidence. As John and Paula sweat to beat an impossible deadline to link Sherman to the recent murders, the bad news keeps piling up: Sherman, dealt a Get Out of Jail Free card, bids farewell to CSP-SAC, and Paula is savaged by the media, learns that her house has been set afire, and gets shot by one of Sherman’s many lowlife associates. Luckily for her, there’s no more honor among the stubbornly unmemorable thieves genetically fated to double-cross each other than there is among the equally unmemorable law enforcement community of greater Sacramento.

L’Etoile (At What Cost, 2016) vividly evokes the chaotic license to kill that pervasive official corruption releases. Too bad he’s determined to weigh this tale down with so many procedural details and acronyms that even the characters complain about them.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68331-442-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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